Blog Archives

Tea’s Weird Week: A Brief History of the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference

Follow me on: Facebook//Twitter//Instagram// Goodreads

By Tea Krulos, Milwaukee Paranormal Conference founder and director

As I was wrapping up my second book, Monster Hunters in 2015, I came up with a spark of an idea for promotion– why not host a mini-paranormal conference? I had met a good number of interesting researchers of all things unusual from the Midwest. I could invite the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee, the ghost investigation team I had shadowed to write several chapters of the book about. I could invite Linda S. Godfrey, the researcher that broke the Beast of Bray Road story, and Jim Sherman, the Bigfoot researcher from Michigan I had spent a weekend with trying to find the elusive Michigan Sasquatch.

It all started to come together really well. I found a venue, the absolutely beautiful, historic, and atmospheric Irish Cultural and Heritage Center. There was a strong interest in the event– there hadn’t been an attempt at such a conference in Milwaukee for about ten years. It was stressful as any event run on a shoestring and a dream is, but what a great time. I thought I really had something there, so I decided to expand, rapidly.

That’s me leading a panel discussion with Allison Jornlin, Jim Sherman, and Nick Roesler in 2015.

In 2016, I bit off more than I could chew. We moved to UWM and although I’m proud of the programming that year, it was an insane amount of work and I walked out of the event losing lots of money (well, a lot of money for a semi-employed, bohemian writer who is constantly rolling the dice with his bank account). Between that and other factors in my life, I fell into a deep depression. I thought that perhaps Year 2 was also the end of the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference.

But then I remembered how much I loved working with all of these cool experts on weird subjects, the vendors, wonderful volunteers, supportive friends, awesome artists and musicians, everyone was just so enthusiastic about having this event. It’s a place where we could discuss all things paranormal– from parapsychology to debates on the Roswell crash to Lake Monster sightings to round-table discussion on the disappearance of D.B. Cooper. Dammit all, the show had to go on!

We returned to the Irish Cultural Center in 2017. It was ok– attendance was low. In order to organize and promote an event like this, it takes a lot of work and I’m often spread thin between the different aspects of my life. And as I was reminded recently when my dad showed me my 6th grade report card he found while cleaning, I’m not always good at asking for help, as 3 out 4 teachers agreed. It was good to see everyone again, though and keep it rolling. We also expanded to other events– we began hosting Friday the 13th Fests every Friday the 13th, a mix of horror themed music, fun stuff, and burlesque as well as Milwaukee Krampusnacht, held at Lakefront Brewery in 2017 before moving to the Bavarian Bierhaus.

The MPC banner flies again! 2019 @ Alverno College

The conference skipped a year in 2018 but returned in 2019 to Alverno College. I think 2019 was a good renewal year– there is certainly lots of potential with the Alverno space and we will be returning there with a big event in 2021 (if the pandemic ever ends).

This year we decided that rather than cancel entirely, we would feature some programming online. The great thing about this is that it’s free and available to anyone who wants to register. There is a solid line-up of speakers, panels, and activities, some from Wisconsin researchers as well as some from beyond.

You can buy this design as a t-shirt, tank top, sticker and other merch right here: https://www.teepublic.com/user/milwaukee-paranormal-conference

Friday: we are kicking things off by having a Ghost Story Happy Hour, I’m hosting Tea’s Weird Week Trivia (categories: Monsters of Folklore, Epic Ghost Hunters of History, and Wisconsin Cryptids) and a performance by Sunspot.

Saturday: Speakers and panels all day, headline speaker is John E.L. Tenney, and at 8pm tune into a live investigation of the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear by the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee.

I will be giving a talk and showing some slides at 11:15am (CST) Saturday on “Strange Places and Secret Societies,” talking about research I’ve done for my book American Madness.

Sunday: Starting things off with a meditation session with Goddess Aida, then virtual tours, a documentary screening and more.

I’m looking forward to it. A huge thanks to everyone participating, American Ghost Walks for sponsoring, and for everyone joining as attendees during this crazy time. I appreciate you all and hope to see you there virtually, and hopefully in person in 2021.

Again, you can register for free for the virtual conference and check out the full schedule here:
https://milwaukeeparacon2020.heysummit.com/

You can get my new book American Madness wherever books are sold, but I recommend my friends Lion’s Tooth: https://www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/

My other books are available signed and personalized through the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Square store (in the “Tea’s Weird Week Gift Shop” section): https://milwaukeeparacon.com/online-store/

Diorama from Feral House on Vimeo.

Tea’s Weird Week: The Ghost of the Christmas Tree Ship

TeaWeirdWeek

I sent in my manuscript for my book American Madness which will be out August next year. I also have a little book out about a year from now called Wisconsin Legends & Lore, which is a collection of some classic Wisconsin folklore, ghost stories, and urban legends. One of the stories I read about while researching is the tragic story of the Rouse Simmons, also known as the Christmas Tree Ship, a nice Wisconsin Christmas ghost story for you this Friday the 13th.

Every holiday season, Chicagoans eagerly awaited the arrival of the Christmas Tree Ship, which would load up with evergreens in Michigan, then sail down to Chicago, where it would tie up to a dock. Families would head over, pick out a tree, and drag it back to their homes on a sled. The arrival of the Rouse Simmons meant the arrival of the holidays.

Rouse Historic

The Rouse Simmons.

Captain Herman Schuenemann aka “Captain Santa” ran the business. He sold trees for fifty cents or a dollar, but he was known for generously donating trees to orphanages, hospitals, and poor families. His was not the only Christmas Tree Ship, but it would become the most famous. In November of 1912, Captain Schuenemann and his crew loaded 5,500 trees (imagine how piney that must have smelled!) into the Rouse Simmons, packing it as much as they could. There were supposedly bad omens, according to crew who declined to make the journey– rats seen abandoning ship, a crew totally an unlucky 13, and the ship leaving port on a Friday.

herman

Captain Schuenemann (center) and crew members.

On November 23, 1912, the Rouse Simmons was sailing past Two Rivers, Wisconsin on route toward Chicago. A terrible storm hit Lake Michigan. The Rouse Simmons, already an old ship and overladen with thousands of trees, was thrashed in the wind, ice forming on the sails and ripping them. The Christmas Tree Ship (and a few other boats on the lake that night) and all hands were lost. Christmas trees from the boat washed ashore for years afterward.

Rather than be deterred by the lake that had claimed Captain Schuenemann’s life, his wife and daughters took over the business. The new Captain Schuenemann was his brave daughter, Elsie, who led the delivery of trees that same winter season of 1912. The family kept the business going until railroads and highways made the Christmas Trees ships obsolete in the 1920s and 30s..

The wreck of the Rouse Simmons was discovered by a scuba diver in 1971. They found that there were still needleless, skeleton-like trees in the cargo hold.

Legend says that you can see the ghost ship of the Rouse Simmons on Lake Michigan on stormy winter nights or on the anniversary of the night it sunk, struggling in the choppy waters to get south to Chicago.

A nice ending to this story is that a non-profit group called Chicago’s Christmas Ship, with the help of the Coast Guard, now continues the Christmas Tree Ship legacy. Using the sturdy Mackinaw, they’ve sailed to Navy Pier the last 20 years with a cargo of Christmas trees, where they work with community organizations to get trees to people who can’t afford them to make their holiday a little brighter.

You can find out more and donate here: http://christmasship.org/

More ghost stories! I host the Milwaukee Ghost Walk- Ghosts of Christmas Past tour tonight, tomorrow, and next weekend!: https://americanghostwalks.com/wisconsin/milwaukee-ghosts-of-christmas-past/

Thrilling to have a “Tea’s Weird Week” column (reworked slightly) printed in this month’s Fortean Times (#397, “Zombies, Vampires, Killer Clowns…”)!

My latest book, Apocalypse Any Day Now makes a nice existential stocking stuffer: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow

Facebook: facebook.com/theTeaKrulos Twitter:@TeaKrulos Instagram: @teakrulos